i'm mike embley. the us military has dropped the world's largest non—nuclear bomb in a remote area of eastern afghanistan — the first time it's been used in combat. the pentagon says it was trying to destroy a network of caves and tunnels used by the extremist group that calls itself islamic state. president trump described the drop as "very successful." speculation is growing that north korea may be ready to carry out its sixth nuclear test as soon as this weekend to coincide with the country's most important national holiday — the anniversary of the birth of its founder kim il—sung. syria's president has dismissed reports that his forces carried out a chemical weapons attack on a rebel—held town in idlib province last week. he says they are "100% fabrication." bashar al—assad said western nations had invented the claims so they had an excuse to bomb a government airbase. now it's time for hardtalk. the country with the biggest
oil reserves in the world is in economic meltdown. venezuelans queue for hours for bread. the sick can't get the medicines they need. violent crime is thriving in the chaos. caracas is now the world's most dangerous capital. hugo chavez's socialist revolution has lost its charismatic leader, but not yet its grip on power. opposition to chavez's successor, nicolas maduro, is mobilising. the national assembly is at war with the government. venezuela is on the brink of a terrifying descent into darkness. can anyone pull it back from the brink? foreign journalists are rarely welcome in venezuela, so we charter a small plane
to the country's caribbean island of margarita, where overseas visitors can still slip in with little fuss. this used to be a buzzing, prospering tourist town. now, the flow of people, money, and jobs has dried up. many local businesses have closed down. more are likely to follow. the beaches have not lost their allure, but venezuela has. a broken economy, inflation spiralling beyond 1,000%, and violent crime have tainted even these shores. this has to be one of the most beautiful beaches i have ever seen. but, even a decade ago,
it would have been packed with tourists from europe, latin america, and the united states too. but, well, today, you can see there is barely a soul here. i have this little piece of paradise all to myself. for you, it means there is nothing to do. i'm alone here. what do you do all day? do you read a book? yes, i read a book, and try to... ..walk around. why do you think there is nobody here? i think the economy is one of the big problems here. but it's going to change, i think, also. we hope so. from margarita, we head to caracas, home to 5 million people, the epicentre of venezuela's economic meltdown. first appearances can be deceptive.
vast oil wealth, even though mostly squandered, has created a veneer of normality. but, beneath the surface, the prolonged slump in oil prices means the government is now drowning in debt, without the money to import basic consumer supplies. every day, tens of thousands of caracas residents spend all day in a desperate search for food. bread is almost impossible to find. most bakeries have shut, as wheat imports have dried up. nappies, baby milk, a whole shopping list of essentials supposedly subsidised by the government, to make them affordable, are missing from supermarket shelves. on the black market, they cost more than the average monthly wage. millions of venezuelans are queueing, not working. caracas is encircled
by sprawling slums, ‘barrios‘, which cling to the hills. antimano is home to a couple of hundred thousand people, hit hard by the shortages and rampant inflation. i am in one of thejeeps which specialises in transporting people up and down the mountain, and the principle here in the slum is pretty straightforward — the higher up the hill you live, well, the poorer you are. the irony here in caracas is that the poor have some of the best views, and much of the housing here really isn't too bad. hugo chavez poured an awful lot of money into the slums like this. but the problem for people living here right now is simply making enough money to eat. leo's family have three daughters. both of them work,
inflation rate in the world, the value of the bolivar has collapsed. the us dollar is king. venezuela has three exchange rates. the strictest, official one, is ten bolivares to the dollar. but out on the street, the black market rate is 4,000 to one greenback, a reality that fuels inequality and crime. buenos tardes, carlos. i need to change money. thank you for coming. ok, so what have we got? 500 us dollars generates a mini mountain of bolivares. in caracas,
kidnapping has become an epidemic. the victims no longer have to be rich. theyjust need a family capable of scraping together a couple of thousand dollars. i made contact with the kidnap gang, who led me deep into their barrio. what followed was one of the more uncomfortable encounters of my life. when you take someone, what do you do with them? where do you take them, and how long do you hold them? you mean, if the family cannot pay, or will not pay, you will kill them? so is it not possible
for his leftist, anti—american populism, but his appeal to venezuela's poor was real. many believed in his socialist revolution. high oil prices allowed him to spend many billions on subsidies and social programmes. he won elections, and even beat off an attempted coup. in 2013, he died. then the oil price started to tumble, a double whammy which was disastrous for the chavismo movement. his successor, nicolas maduro, a former bus driver, lacks charisma, and is blamed for disastrous economic mismanagement. the opposition won a decisive victory in the last national assembly elections. maduro‘s government recently responded with draconian new rules requiring all opposition parties to register thousands of supporters
to be afforded legal status. if the intention was to strangle dissent, it has backfired. these people have been lining up for hours in order to register their support for one of the opposition political parties, and it is quite clear, talking to them, that however long it takes, they will stay. they are determined to have their voices heard. why don't they let us have elections? you think... they just put obstacles, and more obstacles, and more obstacles. that's why we had to do all of this for. and many people that are here are poor too. and i wasn't poor, but now i'm poor. but venezuela's opposition is far from united. there is a multitude of competing parties, egos, and agendas, and an age—old problem. can parties rooted in the upper and middle classes win over the poor?
the biggest threat to chavismo right now doesn't come from the condemnation of long—standing political opponents, but from the alienation of core supporters. we travel deep into the countryside, in ba rlovento, to hearfrom farmers impoverished by a collapsed economy. state—controlled crop prices have lagged way behind inflation, so farmers have taken to a subsistence, hand—to—mouth existence. this is the cocoa bean. needs to be dried, needs to be prepared,
but this is your basic ingredient for chocolate. rodolfo, given the state of the economy here, out in the countryside, do you see any future here for you and your family? were you a chavez supporter in the old days, and how do you feel about president maduro, today? in the last two weeks, venezuela has been rocked by a series of
anti—government demonstrations, and sporadic, violent clashes between protesters and police. the spark was the government's short—lived decision to abolish the powers of the opposition—dominated national assembly. that decision was reversed, but new anger was stirred when one of the most prominent opposition leaders, henrique capriles, was banned from politics. the opposition is torn — undecided whether resistance to maduro‘s government should be focused in the political arena or on the streets. they learned a painful lesson back in 2014. then, the radicals, led by this man, leopoldo lopez, took to the streets demanding the immediate ‘salida', or exit, of maduro. the violence that followed
killed more than a0. lopez was convicted of incitement and sentenced to 14 years in prison. he is venezuela's highest profile political prisoner. i head to the ramo verde military prison, with lopez's mother. she tirelessly campaigns for her son's release. do you think the people of venezuela really care about leopoldo and his situation? that's a really interesting question. when you have a country that has no food, has the highest inflation in the whole continent, it has 28,000 people who die every year because of delinquency, to care about a political prisoner is difficult.
but, leopoldo is on their minds. the government would say that leopoldo lopez is in prison because he refused to play the political game. he refused to accept that there is a democratic process and he demanded change through street and popular action and that's why in the end a court of law convicted him of incitement, because he was not being constitutional, he was trying to subvert venezuela's political system. he was calling for people to go to the streets to protest. that's a constitutional right in venezuela. i just wonder whether you think he was going too far? no, i don't think so. leopoldo has never been a radical. leopoldo is a strong and charismatic leader. people follow him. and that's what he was doing, going to the streets, but never in a radical
or violent way. now, we are about 300 metres away from leopoldo‘s cell. can you communicate with him from here? well, maybe i will try to say hello to him. have you done that before? yes, i have. and he can hear you? he can hear me. he said, hello, how are you? force and faith. and he is shouting very strong. very strongly. but you hear the whistles? the guards are trying to drown out the voices. exactly. i don't know if you can hear
all of this, but his voice, leopoldo lopez's voice, is coming across very clearly. it's a 300 metre distance from the prison tower, where he is being held. but we can hear his voice so strong and so clear. for you, this must be quite moving, quite emotional to hear your son's voice like that? for us, having such a limited opportunity, having our voice out internationally and to have you here and you can see and feel, it's very important. it's worth taking the message out and you, as a witness of his whole confinement. where do you find your strength from? from him. when you listen to those calls, to those messages and, um, and we're out here. well, this is what we have to do.
we have to put the best, our minds, experience, emotions, physical strength, to go on with this. ajeep hasjust come out of the prison. maybe they will take your camera. they want to talk to us. this was the moment our filming in venezuela came to an abrupt end. as the military police approached us from the prison, we attempted to leave. we managed to conceal the camera in our car, but our cover was blown. within hours, state media accused hardtalk of illegally entering the country and filming in a prohibited area. producer—director ian 0'reilly
was detained and interrogated for 2h hours before being deported. i slipped out of the country the next day. venezuela's socialist revolution is on the ropes. the authorities don't want to face questions from foreign journalists, but there can be no escaping the scale of the mess they're in. back at the bbc, in london, i meet temir porras, a former close adviser to both chavez and maduro. would it be fair to say that the lifeblood of the venezuelan socialist revolution really drained away with the death of hugo chavez? definitely the passing of president hugo chavez created a great challenge for chavismo and socialism. not only in venezuela, also in the region. are you personally still
a believer in chavismo? oh, yes, absolutely. how can you be, when you look at the state of your country today? the cycle of chavismo has been mostly been a success. for the last three years the country has been hit by both a terrible economic crisis and a political crisis and i believe that decision—makers today from the government and opposition are responsible for the situation of the country. but what i do not agree with is this view that the chavismo is a failure, that the left is not viable in latin america and that we should all espouse conservative, free—market oriented policies. you worked as a senior adviser to chavez and for a short while an adviser to maduro. you are in a better place than almost anybody to explain to me how come venezuela is steadily going bust when you have had hundreds of billions
of dollars in oil revenues? i was the head of the sovereign fund for a very short period of time and i was, you know, sent out of government. it was a very short period of time. but can you answer me the question, because a lot of venezuelans think the answer to my question is corruption. total mismanagement of the economy. absolutely failed governance. 0k, one thing, first. where has the money gone? come on. venezuela experienced economic growth for most of the chavista period and for most of president chavez's cycle. the money went for the first time in venezuela's history, the venezuelan people, through the political system, got control over oil and that was heavily invested in education and healthcare, in housing. the hospitals can't even
afford medicines today. but you know as well as me, you don't ignore it, one thing is what you can do, what you have invested already in the country, but you need a flow to sustain that model. the country has gone again through a very, very difficult economic crisis and doesn't have the means to keep sustaining that great deal of social advancement. what you are saying is all of the money spent during the chavista years was spent in a way that wasn't building a sustaining economy? that's not what i'm saying. i'm saying that when you have an external shock, like my country suffered, you need to adapt your policy. when the oil price was at $100, you don't need exactly the same policies as today. that's what has happened. things in the economic policy haven't changed. that's strangling the venezuelan economy. venezuela should be the richest
we have made it to the long easter weekend. this forecast should set you up for most of what you need to know about the weather as the weekend goes on. none of the warmth we had last weekend — it is on the cool side. there will be some occasional sunshine. some areas of rain at times, especially for good friday and easter day on sunday. now, this is how good friday begins, already with some damp weather affecting northern ireland, south—west scotland, north—west england and northwest wales. cooler and showery weather into northern scotland. those showers will continue as the day goes on. some of us starting with a touch of frost. cloudy and damp weather, as i mentioned, northern ireland, south—west scotland, north—west england and the north—west of wales. maybe the odd spot extending into the midlands and elsewhere in northern england to begin the day. to the south of that, though, variable cloud. but some breaks in that cloud allowing sunny spells to come through occasionally.
and actually for southern parts of the uk the temperatures will be a degree or so higher compared to where they were on thursday. so we continue with the feed of showers running into northern scotland on good friday. some of those could be heavy, perhaps with hail as well. they take outbreaks of rain and they beef them up in the north—west england and into wales. and going through the evening, heavier in western parts of wales as the weather system sinks its way southwards. look at that, though, 16 degrees in london compared to nine in stornaway, increasingly cooler air. into the evening we have increasingly light rain across some southern parts of the uk. that's not as much as gardeners would want. it's been so dry. cooler air following behind. showers turning wintry over the hills in scotland. frost around for some of us as saturday begins. it will be a chilly start. looks like saturday is the coolest day of the weekend. and this run of north—westerly winds in the uk. but there will be some sunny spells. frost around for some of us as saturday begins. it will be a chilly start. looks like saturday is the coolest day of the weekend. and this run of north—westerly winds in the uk. but there will be some sunny spells.
so, yes, a cooler day, but there'll be some blue sky around. but there will also be showers occasionally too. by no means everybody will see them. they ought to be most frequent in northern scotland. some will be heavy, with hail, maybe even with the rumble of thunder and initially at the start of the day wintry on the hills. those temperatures, yeah, down compared with good friday. 1a in london, nine in glasgow. and then jumping forward to sunday, easter day, it looks like we'll have a weather system producing some outbreaks of rain. at the moment we think from northern ireland, northern england, parts of wales, dividing cooler air to the north, not so chilly to the south. that system may not be in place, so we will keep you updated on that. for easter monday some showers in the east. it will be quite breezy, lighter winds elsewhere. enjoy your weekend. hello, you're watching bbc world news. i'm james menendez.
our top story this hour — the us military unleashes its biggest ever non—nuclear bomb against so—called islamic state in afghanistan. the ‘mother of all bombs,‘ seen here in tests, was dropped on the group's hideout in a series of underground caves. welcome to the programme. our other main stories this hour — syria's president assad hits back at claims his forces launched the chemical attack on a rebel town — he says they're made up to justify america's missile strikes on his country. and three years into the war between ukraine and the russian backed—separatists, we report from a conflict zone virtually cut off from the rest of the country.